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BLOG Bristol International and Small Press Expo 2011

SFX Blogger Stacey Whittle is left exhausted, with dry eyes and a worn out liver after the Bristol Expo. But she’s not complaining

Once again Bristol Expo was held over two venues in Bristol: The Ramada where the majority of the mainstream comics industry resided and The Mercure which held the Small Press Expo. And again the facilities at the Mercure outstripped The Ramada (except for in coffee prices: £1.50 at Ramada and £2.75 at Mercure – this may seem like pointless information but it seemed mighty important to me at the time!). With lovely spacing, lots of room, a well laid-out table plan, a good panel list and the all-important air conditioning, the SPX was a joy.

Of course, you’re all wondering about the panels I attended? I knew it! Well first panel of the weekend was High Noon with 2000AD hosted by PR droid Michael Molcher with a packed panel of artists and creators. This panel ran into a few problems; more creators than room being the first, and no microphones which was a continuing problem for the Ramada panels for the rest of the weekend and also some technical problems. Mr Molcher manfully tried to keep the panel together, encouraging the audience to participate in 2000AD bingo (a genius idea) for prizes, but unfortunately I think the problems outweighed the plus points here.

I had to duck out of the panel early as I had been asked to host a panel over on the Mercure side. A word about the brilliant organisation here – two panel rooms alternately used, so no worry of overrunning or interruptions: great idea. The panel I moderated was What’s The Point Of Small Press Superheroes? The panellists consisted of the wonderful Paul Grist ( Jack Staff , Kane ), Daniel Clifford ( Sugar Glider ), Graham Pearce ( Sgt Mike Battle ) and Matthew Craig ( Bostin Heroes ). I’m not really in a place to review the panel, but it seemed to go well and was very well attended, so if you were there then thank you so much!

Next it was a run back to the Ramada for the launch of Self Made Hero’s new book The Lovecraft Anthology . This was a great panel hosted by editor of the book, Dan Lockwood and creators Rob Davis, INJ Culbard, Ian Edgington and David Hine. Learning my lesson from the first panel, I made sure to have a seat very near the front which made a huge difference. This really was an informative and interesting panel, which also offered suggestions for further reading and watching if you liked the subject. I also would strongly recommend picking up the book: I’m a big fan. I found myself incredibly annoyed, however, at the very end of the panel as many people started flooding in for the next panel causing a big disturbance which was somewhat bad mannered in my opinion. Someone manning the door would have been a big improvement.

Hypotheticals, the comedic panel run by Dave Gibbons and Budgie, was the final one of the day, and having the comedy stylings of Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood on board was a good decision. Also appearing were; Rick Veitch, Richard Starkings and Alex Fitch. This was a really nice, fun way to round out the day, and the panel ended its 12 year run on a high.

Sunday’s panel list started with Just A Comic-Picking Minute, hosted by Tim Pilcher with James Hodgkins, Paul Cornell, Gary Erskine and Si Spencer. This was my favourite panel (save mine!) of the convention. Based on the Radio Four programme Just A Minute the rules were the same but all of the topics discussed were comic related. From Gary’s lovely, slightly naughty breakdown to Paul’s invoking of a deviation from the French language (and blatantly trying to influence the audience with free comics – genius!) to almost every word from Si Spencer’s mouth never mind laugh a minute, it was a laugh every five seconds. Brilliant.

The only other panel I managed to get to on Sunday was It’s A Yes From Me But A No From Him, a “how to pitch” panel run by the ComX guys and hosted by the lovely Richmond Clements. This was chock-full of hints and tips and a must see for all trying to break in to the industry.

Aside from the panels the bustling dealer halls were a thing of wonder. In the Ramada Cinebook had their usual brilliant convention deal on, making their stand the biggest temptation. Selfmade Hero also had some great con rates. The Mercure was a small and independent press wonderland with so much to look at and see and buy, serial killer facepainting and sweeties. I really was impressed with the work gone into making tables look appealing and interesting, and the level of talent there. Great job everyone.

Bristol is one of the most social occasions on the convention calendar, this time round was no different, with an absolutely lovely vibe around the bar area. Gatherings of geeks to watch Doctor Who and Eurovison (with brilliant lady Liz Boyle even arranging a Eurovison Sweepstake) there is always a real sense of inclusiveness in the evenings which is just lovely. I talked and chatted and bought from so, so many people this weekend that it is impossible to thank and mention them all for making my weekend. So I’ll just say thank you to all the organisers, guests and attendees. A special solidarity mention to all staying in the Ramada who ended up outside in their jarmas at 7am on Saturday morning whilst fire alarmageddon happened! And a special thank you to all who sketched for me: Alison Sampson, Nick Dyer, Ian Culbard, Dave Evans, D’Israeli, Kevin Levell – you all rock. And lastly to Matt Timson, Andi Ewington, John Higgins, Sally Hurst and Dave Gibbons for your terrible conspiracy. I’m looking at you all!

Photos kindly provided by Kenny Jeffery and Selina Lock